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Food gifts for Tokyo hosts

We'd like to bring something from America for the three people who will be showing us around town in December (one day each). What is a special, easily transportable food item -- not liquid or gel because of TSA restrictions -- that might be hard to find or otherwise appreciated in Japan? I was thinking fancy chocolates but perhaps that's nothing special over there....

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  1. I have this challenge as well. Fancy chocolates are already popular in Japan... Coming from the Balt/DC area myself, I once gave a gift of Old Bay and small Maryland seafood cookbook that was well received.

    In Japan, it really is the thought that counts. Really anything that is nicely wrapped or presented will suffice.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Silverjay

      Bullseye, SilverJay.

      Gifts associated with travel are tied into "meibutsu", or local specialty. Thus, gifts that are unique to "your own region" have greater impact. The Old Bay from Baltimore fits it to a tee.

    2. What about a single malt from duty free? I've also given shelled almonds and walnuts from Central California and dried cranberrys.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

        Nuts are always a good choice, because they're expensive in Japan. Also bags of trail mix, especially the various kinds they have at Trader Joes. Fancy chocolates are popular in big cities, but maybe not so much in smaller areas. Not too fancy, but I've always found the nuts and chews assortment from See's to popular here.

        Liquids/gels can be carried in your checked luggage, just not your carry on. I know this because I arrived in Okinawa yesterday, and when I unpacked, the three bottles of organic liquid hand soap I brought to give as omiyagi leaked. :(

      2. Maple syrup is always apreciated if you can wrap it and pack it in yiour check in. Also, a friend of our always asks us to bring Dunkin Donuts dark roast. Chocolates are great.

        1. also, japanese people love american bagels.

          1. and hot chocolate mix. we have a japanese house guest with us that is giving us these tips.

            1. My Japanese friend always buys smoked salmon from the US when she goes back to Japan. Although there is a lot of fresh salmon in Japan, they actually don't have any local smoked salmon, and imported ones are really expensive. They often see smoked salmon as very American and they are almost guaranteed to like it as it is after all - Fish!

              1. It is always nice to ask them what they want, if that's possible. However, you can't lose with good quality coffee, ground for paper filter brewing (the most popular way in Japan to make coffee at home). Medium dark roast is quite popular. While Tully's and Starbucks abound in Tokyo, Peet's and other good companies are rare. Be sure to keep the original bag it was put into and hand it to the guests like you just came from the store where you bought it.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Tripeler

                  The problem is, I think most Japanese people wouldn't necessarily tell you what they want (or at least my family won't), so you do have to rely on your ingenuity.

                  Peets (or your local boutique company) is a good call for omiyage. I brought over a 1/2 lb. filter grind of Major Dickeson's blend.

                  1. re: Debbie M

                    When the person said Tokyo hosts I assumed they were likely to be non-Japanese. I live in Tokyo and certainly do my share of showing around. But you are right about Japanese, they are usually loathe to disclose preferences.

                    By the way, Major Dickeson's is an astonishingly good blend of coffee. Too bad it is so expensive!

                    1. re: Tripeler

                      Well, you're not supposed to ask if you're giving omiyage. The thought is part of the gift. On the other hand, you can give omiyage and ask if you can bring anything from the US.

                2. Every idea given here sounds great. I'm from Japan and currently live in DC, so this makes me think. Japanese people appreciate a local speciality, and it'd be better if it is a renowned brand. If I'd be given something, I'm a chocoholic so chocolates are always welcome. As it's getting cold over there, something like Ghirardelli's hot cocoa could be pleased, too. Actually it can be anything as long as it has meaning. I hope you'd enjoy your trip.

                  1. To clarify: Each of our hosts is Japanese, though one has an American husband and will be in New York the week before we visit -- so she'll be able to satisfy her particular cravings. I have asked my Japanese friend if there's anything he wants and of course he demured.

                    I was thinking of Vosges exotic caramels, since they're unique even for here. Although since we are coming from Baltimore, maybe we should think locally: Old Bay seasoning and ... hmmm. Maple syrup is a great idea but I think we are going to try to bring only carryons. Maybe I will make a trail mix and package it in special tins.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: sweetpotater

                      During a professional exchange years ago, I learned to bring only name brand items that were immaculately wrapped. Gifts included scotch, wine, beef jerky and TJ cocoa-dusted almonds....

                      Enjoy your trip!

                      1. re: OCAnn

                        I don't think they will allow beef jerky..... It's very popular, but there is something about mad cow and last year you couldn't bring any beef products to Japan, or anything with beef in it back to the US. Check first, We had some stuff taken away from us.


                    2. I know that this is a food site, but music jazz CD's are another good idea that take little or not room, travel well, and can be truly appreciated. The trick is to keep it small, preferably perishable, as apartments are very small.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: jundomania

                        I second Old Bay and other 'american' spice mixes. Montreal seasoning might be nice as well if they cook.

                        Hot sauces are another thing that Japanese tend to really like from America (although milder is better as the really hot stuff can be too much). My gf loved Old Bay on our trip back home, and Frank's Red Hot is her new favorite hot sauce.

                        Marinated artichokes?

                      2. Posted this yesterday but was taken off for some reason. Sho Chiku Bai sake from Berkely is a very neat product. Their best, INHO, is their Nigori, and comes in many sizes for your check in luggage.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Delucacheesemonger


                          As I responded in the other thread where you posted this -
                          Wow, there's just so much great sake made in Japan that I think just about anything else would be a better gift (unless you're looking for a gag gift). If you're going to the trouble of transporting bottles, then a bottle of California wine would be much more appreciated.

                          1. re: Robb S

                            Meant to be IMHO, obviously, and while it may seem to be bringing coals to Newcastle, l often bring interesting American cheeses to Europe as gifts, and the people are always amazed that the Americans can do something half decently. No it is not a $ 100 sake but very interesting in own right.

                            1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                              It's one thing to bring some artisanal American products as gifts, like the many wonderful cheeses available these days, but it's another to bring a factory made sake product to Japan. It would be like bringing a bottles of low carb Michelob to Europe to show them the nifty new drinks available in the US. Maybe you love the stuff and want to share it with your hosts, and chances are that while the hosts will graciously accept the gifts, but I'd love to hear the conversation about the gift after you're gone.

                        2. Any type of food or condiment that is specific to where you live or grew up. Japanese people often ask people they first meet what their hometown's "original delicious food/dish" is. It doesn't necessarily have to be high-end or gourmet. What's important is that it's from your region. If it's in cute or fancy packaging, even better!